Miami teen paralyzed after shooting graduates high school

MIAMI (WSVN) - A South Florida teen celebrated his graduation years after a shooting tragedy left him partially paralyzed.

Wednesday night, Aaron Willis and his family celebrated his triumphant moment at the Knight Concert Hall in Downtown Miami after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School.

Many graduating seniors worked extremely hard for the moment they could walk on stage and accept their high school diploma, and along the way, some students faced challenges.

Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took a moment to recognize Willis. “I was impressed then by, number one, the love of his family, and then the sheer determination of this young man, who then was 15,” he said.

In December 2012, Willis was shot and paralyzed from the waist down, but thanks to a lot of hard work and support from his family, community and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, he has a 3.1 GPA, as well as an acceptance letter from Florida International University and scholarships.

His best friend even took herself out of the running for a scholarship after finding out they were both finalists. “But what she doesn’t know, Aaron actually won the Maya Macey scholarship,” Booker T. Washington principal William Aristide said as he addressed the audience.

Then, he turned to Willis’ best friend. “And the family was so touched by what you did, they’re also gonna give you a $2,000 scholarship to add to your education,” said the principal.

Willis’ parents were at the ceremony and have been by his side from the very beginning. During the graduation, Willis, with the help of a robotic braces on his legs, was actually able to stand and walk across the stage. “Going to make me feel so good to see him looking down at me instead of me looking down at him because he can’t get out of that wheelchair,” said the teen’s father, Sammie Willis.

“I’m really happy, and I’m really, really blessed to be here, because I could have died back in 2012,” Willis said. “I could have died some other times after that, but I’m still here, and I graduated.”

Willis will be busy with a summer scholarship program at FIU before he continues his studies in the fall.

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